If you hang around with many herb enthusiasts, it’s only a matter of time before you start to hear about cannabis strains. You may even hear wacky names like Maui Waui, Bubblegum Kush, White Widow, Sour Diesel, and many more.
You may be in a smoke circle, and someone will casually comment on how chill the indica blends are or that they can’t smoke Sativa without getting anxious. RYOT is here to demystify the endless talk about weed strains that smokers love to discuss.
What is a “strain?”
A strain is essentially a fancy word for a breed of marijuana. Just as dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and characteristics, weed comes in various sizes, potencies, colors, and tastes. Cannabis growers carefully select and crossbreed their plants to create new plants with sought-after traits. These characteristics might be THC content, size, fragrance, or trichome formation, other aspects that dictate the quality of their bud.
For many years, THC content was one of the most sought-after qualities in cannabis. At this point, THC content has been maxed out, especially now that high-concentration oils and waxes are readily available on the market.
In the current market, cannabis is selected for overall quality, including flavor, smoke, and aesthetics. Cannabis is taken as seriously as top-tier wines. Beautiful flowers are celebrated on the front of magazines, just like beautiful roses. Commercial growers may also prioritize qualities like height, overall yield, and time to mature so that they can maximize their profits per plant. In short, breeding and propagating successful strains is a serious business.
What does this have to do with me?
For consumers, most of these qualities are unimportant. What matters to the end-user is whether it smokes and does what it’s supposed to do. For the average person in a dispensary, the concern will mainly be THC/CBD content and personal preference for aroma. THC/CBD content is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant as it’s consumed.
THC is responsible for the most noticeable effects, such as euphoria, increased sensory perception, altered sense of time, and more. In medical contexts, THC is used to help treat nausea, improve appetite, and partially relieve pain. Strains that are high in THC are best for recreational users and users that are interested in help for health issues (such as nausea, chronic pain, etc.)
CBD is the second compound that is frequently discussed. While THC has been more sought after for many years, CBD has gained steady interest in recent years. CBD is a potent anti-spastic that has been used to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy and serious medical conditions such as nerve pain, dystonia, and Parkinson’s disease. Many also feel that CBD promotes relaxation and can be used to treat moderate anxiety and muscle pain and to promote sleep.
What are these words I keep hearing? Sativa? Indica?
These are the two major varieties of cannabis. Traditionally, it’s been held that Indica strains contain more CBD and lead to a more relaxed, body-focused experience. In contrast, Sativa strains are said to contain more THC, leading to a high-energy, psychoactive experience.
In truth, decades of breeding and crossbreeding have rendered these conventions to be stereotypes. There may be some truth to them, but it’s impossible to tell THC/CBD content from simply looking at a strain’s pedigree. The only way to really know what a strain will smoke like is to smoke it (or put it into an expensive machine that tells us the exact chemical content of the flower, but consumers don’t generally have those).
What about these crazy names?
You might have noticed that cannabis names are creative, to say the least. Some names are completely original; other strains get names that signal their genetics or characteristics. Names like OG Diesel, Sour Diesel, Strawberry Diesel, and others may share genetics or qualities like being THC dominant strain. Afghan Kush, Purple Kush, or Hindu Kush are Indica strains that may share qualities or may be traceable to a Kush originally grown 50 years ago and altered since then.
Which one should I buy?
It depends on what you want your experience to be. Talking to the workers at dispensaries is the best way to find a strain that fits your needs. Not only are they familiar with the products available, but they spend every day listening to customers discuss various strains and their effects.
A good dispensary clerk can help you sort through the dozens of jars on the wall and find a product you might enjoy. Once you find a product you like, they can give you recommendations based on your preferences. They can also assist in finding accessories for consuming your product, such as dry herb vaporizers, 2 piece and 4 piece grinders, or one-hitters.
You may also try to do some research before buying. Websites like Leafly can provide a wealth of information and reviews about strains available in your area, what they are like, and where to buy them. Legalization and increasing popularity has made information and choices widely accessible to consumers.
Cannabis strains are simply types of cannabis that have been bred for specialized characteristics. Some strains are higher in THC and CBD, the chemical compounds that are responsible for what a “high” will feel like. The two main types of cannabis are Sativas and Indicas. While Sativas are generally more THC heavy and Indicas more CBD heavy, that isn’t always the case. Experienced dispensary workers are the best resource for finding a strain that will fit a client’s needs and preferences.